The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has proposed rolling back rules to protect workers exposed to the toxic chemical beryllium, which can lead to the serious lung disease berylliosis. Berylliosis can cause complete failure of the lungs and ultimately result in death without a lung transplant.
Beryllium is a strong, lightweight metal used in a variety of industries including energy, electronics, aerospace, and defense. It is arguably the most toxic substance on earth when processed in a manner that releases airborne dust, fume, or mist into the workplace environment. OSHA estimates 62,000 workers are exposed to beryllium in the workplace. Workers at the greatest risk are those involved in abrasive blasting in shipyards and construction, as well as welding in shipyards.
Early this year, OSHA published a final rule reducing the permissible eight-hour exposure limit to 0.2 micrograms per cubic meter. The rule also included nine ancillary protections requiring businesses to provide medical exams and periodically train workers who could be exposed to beryllium while on the job.
This rule was set to take effect in March, however, the U.S. Department of Labor indicated it would delay implementation pursuant to an executive order issued by the Trump administration. The agency ultimately concluded that the ancillary provisions of the rule, including requirements for assessing methods for controlling beryllium exposure, may be redundant alongside existing standards in the construction and shipyard industries. This decision does not, however, strip the new exposure limits across all industries and equivalent ancillary provisions in other industries.
Lawyers in the Section are investigating cases where individuals are diagnosed with berylliosis or sarcoidosis, which is pathologically similar to berylliosis. If you have any questions about this subject, contact Ryan Kral, a lawyer in the Section, at 800-898-2034 or by email at Ryan.Kral@beasleyallen.com.
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